Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?


Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?
A Friends of the Library Mystery
Part VI
 (To Review, Part I)
(To Review, Part II)
(To Review, Part III)
(To Review, Part IV)
(To Review, Part V)


The names in Ancestry.com were all indexed – not just the adults. When the researcher went to the 1920 Census and put in Emma Jean Mahoney with Michigan as the state, she got exactly one record. Located in Berrien, Michigan, the record showed a nine-year old Emajean’s name, listed with her parents, Frank and Frances Mahoney. Both parents had been born in Michigan, both of immigrant parents. His were from Ireland, and hers from Canada. Emajean’s father’s occupation was listed as a supervisor for the railroad.

The researcher knew that most of the work and expense that had gone into making Ancestry.com's databases so rich had been done by members and supporters of the Mormon Church. Because of their theology, it was very important to them to locate and record ancestors. The result was a fantastic mine of possibilities for genealogists;
and it just showed facts - no shading of truth like so many family histories. The researcher loved dealing with facts.

After recording all the information from the 1920 Census form, she moved to 1930. Ancestry was fully indexed which made the task much easier, and gave lots of leads. Entering "Emma Jean" did not yield any matches. However, when the researcher put in Mahoney and Jackson Michigan, the record came up with a big surprise.

At 529 Crescent Road, Emma J. Mahoney was listed as living with her parents, Frank J. and Frances V. and a younger sister, Frances M, age 9. The census was conducted during her last year of high school, before she went to Loyola to train as a nurse. By 1930, Frank’s occupation was listed as a retail coal merchant. Brrr! I’ll bet he was in great demand in Michigan about nine months of the year, the researcher thought.

On a whim, the researcher put in the parents' names for the 1910 census and discovered another surprise. In Berrien, Michigan, back in 1910, a son, Walter, was listed living with Frank and Frances. Frances was listed as the mother of zero children, and the record said they’d been married two years. Then the researcher saw the notation that indicated this was Frank’s second marriage. Walter was Frances’ stepson.

The researcher dutifully recorded all the information and closed her laptop. The library was closing soon and she wanted to pick up a couple of books on CD for the travel she had ahead of her the next week. She found some that sounded interesting, used the self-checkout, and headed out the automatic doors.  But as the researcher walked out to her car she began to think about Emajean again.

I wonder . . . could the photo of the young girl be Frances, Emajean’s younger sister? And perhaps the photo of the man is her older stepbrother, Walter? But who was the baby?




The difficulty now was that the last census that was indexed by Ancestry was 1930. If Emajean had never married, she might be searchable in the 1940 index when it came out. But if Emajean married after graduation, the census records of 1940 wouldn't be much use without a last name. And that last name was what the researcher needed next.


At home, the researcher fired off an inquiry to Loyola's nursing program hoping it would land in the in-box of a genealogy or mystery buff -- or even someone who volunteered for their local library friends group!


In the back of the annual there were advertising pages. The photographers for the yearbook had a full page ad. Just for grins, the researcher quickly searched for them on Google and discovered that amazingly, they were still in business! She sent an e-mail to them as well, on a fishing expedition at best. So far, the researcher had spent only time on the project, and no actual funds. To go the next step might require some money for birth records, etc. To research her own family, the sleuth would have gladly paid. In this case, she wasn't sure that going that much deeper would be worth it.


As her final task for the night, the researcher methodically went through every page of the annual, gently separating those that resisted her ministrations. She kept an eye open for the girls in the three person photo she had but nothing jumped out. And just when she thought the annual had given up all of its mysteries, she came across another photo. It wasn't significantly different than some of the others, but it made the researcher laugh again at the pull this mysterious 1933 Loyolan had on her.

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